Department Assessment Plans

Any undertaking benefits from some kind of plan...
Assessment is no different; it will be more effective and successful if you plan your work.
(Suskie, 2009, p.98)

Overview of Department Assessment Plans

All degree programs (i.e., all graduate degrees, undergraduate majors or "free-standing” certificates) (see definition below) whether delivered in online or face-to-face mode, must develop an assessment plan that describes the student learning outcomes to be assessed, the direct and indirect forms of assessment of the student learning outcomes, and the means of disseminating assessment findings to faculty.

Co-majors, minors as well as certificate programs that are offered only to existing Miami students pursuing other Miami degrees are not required (but are highly encouraged) to develop assessment plans.

An assessment plan should be developed for a degree program in the following instances:

  • when the degree program is first proposed
  • when an existing degree program changes the student learning outcomes to be assessed in significant ways (e.g., more than modest wording changes)
  • when the faculty members decide that a better means (or methods) of assessment are needed.

Externally-Accredited Programs

If a degree program and/or department or division is accredited by an external agency beyond the Higher Learning Commission (ABET, AACSB, CAEL, etc.), and if the accrediting body requires full-cycle and direct assessment of student learning outcomes (assessment of actual student work that is discussed and used for improvement), the program/unit may use the assessment data collected for these processes provided that they comply with the HLC "full cycle" assessment requirement.

Free-Standing Certificates

The requirement for an assessment plan and annual reports apply to "free standing” certificate programs, i.e., those which are open to students external to Miami--that is, students who are not already pursuing any other Miami degrees. If a certificate program requires a student to be enrolled in an already existing Miami degree program, then a separate assessment plan is not needed.

Assessment Plan Composition

  • Name of Program and Department
  • Name of Person Completing the Plan
  • Department or Program Mission Statement
  • Listing of three or more measurable student learning outcomes. Outcomes can be drawn entirely or partially from those used in other assessment plans (e.g. those required for professional accreditation or the academic division, such as the CAS Writing Outcomes Plan). Undergraduate degree programs are encouraged to include in their assessment plans at least one of the outcomes advanced in the Global Miami Plan (e.g., critical thinking, written communication). Outcomes should be aligned with the mission statement of the program or department.
  • Explanation of where the assessment will be done. A capstone or culminating course as one of the courses is an ideal choice for one of the assessment sites. If the degree program or major includes liberal education courses, departments are encouraged to select at least one liberal education course. It is important to ensure that work will be assessed for at least 20% of majors.
  • Description of the methods to measure the outcomes. Multiple methods should be used. Generally, departments and programs measure directly by collecting student work and assessing the work using a rubric(s) or rating scale(s). Departments or programs typically measure indirectly by including a question or questions about the outcomes on the relevant course evaluation(s). However, focus groups, surveys or gathering other indirect data (such as employer placement rates) are also good indirect measures.
  • Explanation of how the department or program will share the findings of the assessment of the student learning outcomes with faculty and other stakeholders. Typically, a person responsible for assessment within the department or program prepares a draft of the report and shares it with faculty and perhaps others (staff, students) at a department meeting. Faculty discuss and plan what changes could be made to improve deficiencies revealed in the assessment findings. The improvement strategies are then incorporated into the final report. Each year, the improvements that were made are revisited, new assessment data discussed and additional improvements are made.

Departmental Assessment Plan Template

Program Information

  • Academic Program (Major, Certificate Name)
  • Actual Degree Name (B.S., B.A. in XXX)
  • Department or Program
  • Division
  • Academic Year (when the plan will begin, or "already in progress”)

Assessment Contact(s)

  1. Name
  2. Title
  3. Email address

Program Mission Statement

This is an educational mission statement focused on the major, not an organizational mission statement for your department or division. Often this statement can be found in the General Bulletin.

Example: The mission of [insert name of major or degree program] is to [insert the program's primary educational purpose] by providing majors [insert the program's primary functions and activities] in order to [insert description of how the major or degree program contributes to the development and careers of its students].

Student Learning Outcomes

Each program or major should have at least three measurable outcomes. Outcomes describe the knowledge, skills, and abilities that a student should attain by completing the degree program. Each statement should be specific, well-defined, simple (not compound), and aligned with the program's mission.

Means of Assessment

  • Data Collection: For each learning outcome, state where and when data will be collected, who will be responsible, how and if student work will be sampled, and estimated sample size. Please indicate how you will assure that the data are representative.
  • Direct, Course-Embedded Assessment: For each learning outcome, list the course or courses where students will be demonstrating the outcomes and the assignment(s) in the course(s) that you will use for assessment purposes (e.g., capstone project, final examination, research paper, portfolio, etc.).
  • Scoring: For each learning outcome, describe how you will score students' level of mastery of the outcomes. For example, will you use a rubric, rating scale or answer key, or will it be scored by a testing company? If your plan has a rubric or rating scale, be sure to include a copy as an appendix. Who will do the scoring? One or more persons? How will scores be reported (e.g., total scales or sub scores)? Note: It is better if the scorers are not the instructors of the students being assessed.
  • Indirect Assessment (Perceptions of Student Learning): For each learning outcome, describe how you will indirectly assess students' and other stakeholders' perceptions of their learning in relation to these outcomes (e.g., course evaluations, focus groups with graduating students, alumni survey, employer survey, data relating to student outcomes such as number of publications, job placement, etc.). Attach relevant questions on online course evaluations, alumni survey, employer survey, focus session, etc. in an appendix.

Closing the Loop

Feedback Loop: Describe how and when you plan to share the findings of the assessment of these outcomes with faculty and other stakeholders. Explain briefly how you will ensure that your unit makes improvements based upon the assessment findings and revises the assessment plan as needed.

Timeline: Attach a timeline of major assessment activities to fulfill the assessment plan.